Goldfrapp: Black Cherry

Black Cherry

It would be easy to wax occult about Goldfrapp. Her, or rather their (the entity known as Goldfrapp is vocalist Alison Goldfrapp and instrumentalist Will Gregory) debut, Felt Mountain, settled into the imagination like snow from the stars on a cloudless midsummer night. Goldfrapp played high priestess of magnetic north in a cloak of living ermine, her crystalline, umpteen-octave voice gliding through tales of secret protocols and extra-human liasons on a magic carpet of strings, harpsichords, guitars, bass, drums, and plenty of electronics, all woven into an impeccably lush matrix that evoked the spirits of Nino Rota and John Barry.

But that was nearly three years ago. On Black Cherry, the snow has melted, and the priestess has landed. The woman who opened Felt Mountain's "Paper Bag" with "No time to fuck" now finds herself with ample time for dalliance. Take "Twist": "Before you go and leave this town/I want to see you one more time/Put your dirty angel face/Between my legs and knicker lace." And that's merely a ploy to get her partner interested in continued hanky-panky, with the chorus pleading--no, insisting--"Fight me/Try me/Kiss me like you like me/Twist it round/ Again and again." No more dreamy, faraway delivery either: Her voice is right in, uh, your face, cooing, squealing, and crawling on its belly over an insistent robotic beat and a tangle of animalistic synths so thick you'd need a machete to even make a dent.

Gone are the strings of Felt Mountain. Gone the guitars, the clavichords, the balalaikas, the crumhorns, the mazolas and even the bazoos. In their place, Goldfrapp offer synths, synths, and more synths, all growly and snarky and undulating, and, on "Tiptoe," gorgeously majestic. "Tiptoe" is one of the few songs on Black Cherry to betray even a trace of Goldfrapp's old cinematic bent. The album comes off far less like a collection of soundtrack themes and more like... well, an album of pop songs. Earthy ones, too--muscular, and oozing the kind of liquid sensuality that used to make Prince and Madonna exciting.

In fact, Goldfrapp's changing image might smack of Madonna were it not for the fact that the duo hasn't really reinvented itself. They're still operating out of the same witchy wood of Felt Mountain, only now, the trees are covered with hair. Black Cherry's action is up-close, physical, and steamy as the surface of Venus. You may have admired the high priestess from afar on the duo's debut. But now you're dealing with her when she materializes in your living room looking to wrassle.

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